Live from the Big Easy, it’s the Schimmel Show. Sho-Time in NOLA. However you refer to it, tonight's Louisville-Cal national semifinal game is huge. Pushed by the Schimmel sisters, Jude and Shoni, from the Umatilla Reservation in Oregon, the Cardinals are on the brink of playing for a national title. That brink, though, is daunting.
Tonight’s national semifinal game between Louisville and Cal has the promise of a truly entertaining matchup. Both teams not only talk about how they like to have fun and play loose, they demonstrate it on the court. They’re also squads full of highly competitive players.
The Cardinals, out of the Big East, enter the game with an overall 28-8 record, averaging 71.4 points per game on the season. But the reason we’re still talking about the club is the shooting show they’ve put on in their magical tournament run: The U of L has been connecting on 50 percent of their shots in their four NCAA games. They upset Baylor, the prohibitive favorite to repeat as champs this year, by simply outscoring them, 82-81. In that game the Cards drained 16 of 25 three-point attempts, an astounding 64 percent. Shoni Schimmel made 5 of 8 from downtown and Antonita Slaughter hit 7 of 9.
In the tourney, Shoni’s averaging 18.7 points her game, while her sister, Jude, the team’s super sixth-woman, is leading the squad with 4.7 assists and 4.3 steals per game.
The higher-seeded Cal Golden Bears (32-3 overall), out of the Pac-12, may have to get physical if they want to win this game. To disrupt the torrid shooting pace of the Louisville ladies, they may have to adopt a defensive style similar to what’s displayed in the rugged Big East. If they can upset the shooting rhythm of Shoni and the Cards, the Lady Bears could cruise—especially if their 5’9” senior guard Layshia Clarendon stays hot. For the tourney, Clarendon is averaging 22.5 points per game.
Cardinals coach Jeff Walz has been quick to move any “team of destiny” air away from his team as the prepare in New Orleans amid the euphoria that’s been building since Louisville knocked off Baylor and Tennessee to reach the Final Four.
"No one expects us to win now," Walz insisted to ESPN. "I'm sorry, we're seeded fifth. So my thing is, I know we won two games, but we're seeded fifth, and if they expected us to win, we'd be seeded second or third."
Cal, Walz noted, "is a team that's 32-3, that beat Stanford. … They're a great basketball team, so we're going to have to figure out a way."
Historically speaking, Walz may have a point. No team seeded worse than fourth has won national semifinal game.
Louisville takes on Cal tonight at 6:30 p.m./ET. The game will air on ESPN, with online coverage at ESPN3.com. Check your local listings and Espn.com/watchespn for details.
Indian Country Today Media Network will be live in the Twitterverse tonight during the game. ICTMN correspondent Vincent Schilling (@VinceSchilling) will be leading the discussion, tweeting at @IndianCountry (Twitter.com/indiancountry). The hashtag is #SchimmelFinalFour.
Tweet you tonight!